A Sudden Success: Upstate Social Sessions Ready for Year Two


The following is a guest post from Leah Stacy, Journalism Innovation Section Instructor and Upstate Social Sessions Cofounder

It almost seems cheesy that I cofounded a social media conference based on a Facebook message, but that’s exactly what happened last May.

May 22, 2015: I receive a Facebook message from a new friend.

Danielle: Hey, wanna start a social media conference?

Me: Um, yes.

June 2015: We recruit a handful of digitally savvy friends to help build the idea. We decide to hold the conference on October 31 because every other day is booked in the venue we want.

July 2015: We start securing speakers, sponsors and vendors—and we realize what a big undertaking a conference can be.

August 2015: Things are coming together. We now have enough food sponsors to give everyone free breakfast. #donutsforall

September 2015: We announce our schedule and lineup, start a press push, and reach out to college groups. Everyone likes the idea. People buy tickets.

October 2015: It’s go time. The conference, which we named Upstate Social Sessions, is successfully executed. Two hundred people attend. The conference-goers wear costumes and live tweet. Food trucks come for lunch. There are amazing minds onstage and in the crowd. Team Upstate has all the feels.

What the timeline doesn’t say is that our team had an amazing support system in and around Rochester, New York. From speakers to sponsors, we were fortunate enough to have the connections and network to pull off a daylong conference in just three months of planning.

Syracuse University alums were a big part of this support system. Because it is my alma mater, I knew I could reach out to connections there to attend, participate in, and help spread the word about Upstate Social Sessions.

Our speaker lineup in 2015 included Eric Vilas-Boas, an undergrad alum who was a social media manager for DonorsChoose.org at the time (he’s now at Thrillist), and Mike Johansson, a master’s alum and former journalist who is now a social media lecturer at Rochester Institute of Technology. Johansson brought many of his students to the conference as well.

Now we're back for year two.

SU is playing a big role yet again in the conference on Saturday, October 15. Professor Corey Takahashi, who teaches for both Communications@Syracuse and The Newhouse School, will talk about creating authentic videos; Nick Cicero, who graduated from the advertising master’s program, will talk about social media analytics and his startup Delmondo; Newhouse undergrad alum Sarah Taddeo, a multimedia journalist for Rochester’s Gannett paper, will co-host a workshop about shooting and editing social video.

Folks from SU undoubtedly enrich Upstate Social, and it makes me even more proud to be a part of the Orange family.

Visit our website for more information.